An alarming outbreak of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) has emerged in southern California, resulting in three tragic fatalities, as per the recent health advisory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released on December 8.
The reported cases, totaling five individuals, all share a common thread—those affected had either recently visited or resided in Tecate, Mexico, within two weeks before falling ill. Distressingly, among these cases, one was an adult, while the remaining four were under 18 years old. Notably, three patients were U.S. residents, and two hailed from Mexico. Tragically, three patients succumbed to the disease, underscoring the severity of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which the CDC describes as a severe, rapidly progressive, and potentially fatal illness transmitted through the bite of infected ticks.
What is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: Symptoms and Risks ?
The CDC highlighted that Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is prevalent in certain northern Mexico states bordering the U.S., such as Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Nuevo León, as well as in specific areas of the southwestern U.S. Dr. Marc Siegel, a clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor, expressed concern regarding the cases occurring in Mexico, citing worries about the potential for disease carrying ticks to traverse porous borders.
The fever is caused by Rickettsia rickettsii bacteria transmitted primarily by brown dog ticks, commonly found on domestic canines. Dr. Siegel noted the distinct characteristics of these ticks compared to those responsible for Lyme disease, emphasizing their larger size and lack of the characteristic white spot seen on deer ticks. Prompt diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics particularly doxycycline, Which are crucial for managing RMSF, as the disease can progress rapidly and prove fatal if not treated promptly.
Manifesting initially with mild symptoms like headaches, moderate fever, abdominal pain, rashes, gastrointestinal issues, muscle aches and swelling, Rocky Mountain spotted fever may not always display the classic spotted rash early on. Dr. Siegel cautioned about the challenge of diagnosing the illness due to its flu like and generic symptoms, which could lead to misinterpretation or oversight. However, advanced stages can lead to severe complications, including mental disorientation, brain swelling, organ damage, tissue death and respiratory decline.
The CDC advocates for healthcare providers to consider Rocky Mountain spotted fever when assessing patients with a recent travel history to northern Mexico displaying fever symptoms. Moreover, they stress the importance of promptly reporting all cases to the respective health departments. The fatality rate in Mexico for this disease can exceed 40%, and it is notably more lethal for children under 10 years old, emphasizing the critical need for swift medical attention.
CDC Urges Vigilance After Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) Outbreak Traced to Tecate, Mexico:
To prevent tick-borne illnesses, the CDC advises treating dogs with EPA registered insect repellents, wearing protective clothing, and conducting thorough tick checks after outdoor activities. Immediate tick removal is crucial. Anyone exhibiting symptoms after visiting northern Mexican areas is encouraged to seek urgent medical care.
This distressing Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) outbreak highlights the importance of awareness, timely medical intervention, and preventive measures to curb the spread of this potentially fatal tick-borne disease.